Community-based tourism in the Colca Valley: Building together in Coporaque, Peru
When thinking about tourism in southern Peru, most destinations go often overlooked beneath the fabled Machu Picchu. Though the famous Incan site can always make for an incredible journey, other parts of the Andes Mountains in Peru’s south have proven to be well worth a visit as well. In recent years, world travelers have begun noticing the amazing sights and opportunities that await in Peru’s Colca Valley, including natural hot springs and fascinating archeological sites. Daniel recently visited the stunning Colca Valley and shared his great experience helping a community rebuild from an earthquake. In his own words:
The Colca Valley is undoubtedly the most iconic destination of Arequipa’s countryside in southern Peru. Normally recognised for its dramatic landscapes and the faithful Andean Condors that can be seen year-round at its cliffs, this region receives about a quarter million of foreign tourists per year. Following the course of the river that carves the canyon of the same name along hundreds of kilometers, several little towns that still keep their traditions intact have decided to welcome visitors as part of an initiative to promote community-based tourism in the Colca Valley. As it became evident to villagers how enriching this economic activity can be, they have started opening their doors and sharing their tables with travelers from around the globe.
This is how we ended up visiting Coporaque, a town along the Colca River that was affected by a devastating earthquake just one year ago. Though the quake registered at a medium intensity, it was still strong enough to seriously affect the community’s homes and has severely restricted the hospitable people’s capacity to host guests, putting their tourism activity under direct harm. Luckily, Sumak’s trusted local partner in Peru was able to collect funds and donate for the reconstruction. With money and staple articles like food, clothes, and blankets, they were able to give a little bit back to the people of Coporaque. They even helped supply volunteer forces that worked shoulder-to-shoulder with the villagers in an effort to rebuild the most damaged parts of town. Thanks to these efforts, four families directly involved in the community-based tourism initiative were not only able to rebuild their houses and guestrooms, but they also improved their quality of living and made their homes more resistant to future quakes and tremors.
The time we spent at Coporaque acted as a sort of celebration and culmination of all that hard work, as we were on hand to reinaugurate four of the houses. We got to accompany them along town while toasting and giving speeches at every house after each ceremonial ribbon cutting or traditional bottle smashing.
Though this proved to be a busy task, we managed to do several other activities during our time in Coporaque. We took the mandatory visit to Cruz del Condor to watch the soaring condors popular in this region. We further took advantage of our down time by visiting other nearby towns like Pinchollo, Maca and Yanque. Within the immediate vicinity of Coporaque, visitors can also herd baby llamas, take a horseback ride to a number of archaeological sites, and relax at the popular hot springs.
One thing that stuck out to me during my visit to Coporaque and the Colca Valley is that there were children always around us, as community-based tourism has really set its foundations here in a positive way, and the young ones obviously feel comfortable around their guests. In addition, the table is always served for the hosting family and guests at the same time, making for great moments where people from different cultures can share food and stories around the dinner table. All of this combined make travelers feel as comfortable as if they were in their own hometowns.
On this trip, we also were able to witness the many natural forces that reign over the valley, as evidenced by most baroque colonial churches in the area. The churches walls and towers were still supported by improvised poles because of the recent earthquake. More evidence of nature’s great influence over the Colca Valley comes from the constant smoke columns expelled by the ever-visible Sabancaya volcano.
Coporaque, Yanque and Sibayo are towns in the Colca Valley that have truly taken the community-based tourism to heart and have turned it into a great form of sustainable development. All of these towns in the valley are extremely welcoming and carry authentic traditions, meaning you won’t be disappointed choosing any of them for your next holiday.
Be sure to check back for more community-based tourism initiatives and sustainable development tours around Latin America.
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